Background: Although many studies conducted among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations may help to advance medical science and lead to improvements in health and health care, historically few have endeavored to share their findings, benefits, and/or expected outcomes with the communities in which they are conducted. This perceived lack of responsiveness has contributed to a perception in some AI/AN communities that researchers are disrespectful and may not make community needs a priority.
Objectives: In the context of a study assessing the care received by AI/AN men with incident elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, this paper describes our experience building collaborative relationships, planning, conducting analyses, and disseminating findings with four AI/AN communities.
Methods: We established formal partnerships with three Northern Plains AI communities and one AN tribal health organization, convened a 12-member Community Advisory Board (CAB), and obtained study approvals from all necessary tribal and institutional review bodies before implementing our study. A menu of options for study implementation was given to key collaborators at each site. CAB members and collaborating tribes contributed to each phase of the study. After data analysis, results were shared with tribal and institutional leaders.
Lessons Learned: Face-to-face communication, flexibility, and adaptability, as well as clearly defined, respectful roles contributed to the success of the study on the part of both the researchers and community partners.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates the importance and feasibility of forging collaborative relationships with AI/AN community leaders in regions of Alaska and the Northern Plains in cancer control initiatives for AI/AN men.